Honestly, I've never found a children's Bible-story book that I really loved. The stories all seemed a little dry, and they're typically presented in a preschool-ish way that doesn't interest older kids. Spiritual applications are often watered down, if they're present at all.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm pretty frugal, and it's rare that I will tell you something is a must-have. You also know that I generally don't do book reviews. But this time I'm making an exception, because this book is a must-have. I've never seen a children's Bible story book like it. I've never seen any children's book like it. Case in point, there's this from the opening paragraph:
God wrote, "I love you" -- he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror -- to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.
-- p. 12
The Bible stories are presented with one goal in mind, and it's explained in the book's subheader: Every Story Whispers His Name. Beautifully and seamlessly, the story of Jesus is woven through every Old Testament story, explaining why we needed a Savior in the first place. The stories are the same ones parents have been reading their children for ages, but there is some hefty theology mixed in--seriously, there is some meaty stuff there. And while that might make it sound difficult for a child to follow, I can assure you that the opposite is true. These stories challenge the kids, but the gorgeous, lyrical language pull the kids right along. Here's an example from the story of Noah, in which the meaning of the rainbow (compared earlier to a warrior's "war bow") is explained:
God's strong anger against hate and sadness and eath would come down once more -- but not on his people, or his world. No, God's war bow was not pointing down at his people.
It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven.
-- p. 47
We've been reading two or three stories a week, and my three boys are absolutely riveted. They don't move a muscle. The rich content of these stories has generated some of the deepest spiritual conversations we've ever had with our kids, and I'm convinced it's because they're seeing Scripture presented in such a fresh and authentic way. (Amazon advertises a target age of 4-8, but I disagree. My oldest son, who is almost ten, has been eating it up. I've actually learned from it.)
One more example, because this is so good I have to include it. This is from the story of Christ's crucifixion:
"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. "Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"
And for the first time -- and the last -- when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn't answer. He turned away from his Boy.
Tears rolled down Jesus' face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.
-- p. 304
Even the illustrations and fresh and powerful. The drawing of what it might have looked like when Adam and Eve left the garden brought tears to my eyes.
If I sound ridiculously excited about this book, it's because I am. I can't think of a book I'd recommend more highly to any family, in fact. It's available at Amazon for about $10. It will be worth every single penny.